4:00 p.m. – 3… 2… 1…
Lines out. It’s been a fun first day on Sturgeon Bay.
While the numbers weren’t quite what we were expecting, the averages were certainly on par with what the legendary smallmouth fishery can produce on any given day. One look at SCORETRACKER will tell you all you need to know about how many 3-plus-pounders are swimming around.
We’ve written plenty about it today, but it’s hard to overstate how impressive Kurt Mitchell was from start to finish. It’s not easy breaking the 100-pound mark, and he did it seemingly effortlessly. These Sturgeon Bay smallmouth can be really nomadic, so we’ll see if he can get on those same fish Wednesday. Either way, he may not need it to make the Knockout Round on Friday.
Three other pros eclipsed the 50-pound mark today, and all three caught close to 20 scorable bass throughout the day. Grae Buck, Evan Barnes and Casey Scanlon really helped separate themselves from the rest of the group, moving far enough away from the cluster of pros with 24 to 40 pounds to have a little breathing room in the Qualifying Round.
Thanks for sticking with us today. We’ll have live coverage each of the next five days, so be sure to come back tomorrow from 7:30 a.m. CT (live blog) and 8 a.m. CT (live feed) until 4 p.m. CT for full coverage of Group B’s first day of fishing.
3:30 p.m. – 30 minutes to go
With 30 minutes left to fish, our 25 pros in Group A are all looking to make some moves, except for maybe Kurt Mitchell. He has nowhere to go but down. Still, whatever he catches the rest of the day will count toward his two-day Qualifying Round total, so everything he can catch today could make a big difference.
It’ll really be interesting to see what happens between now and tomorrow in terms of condition changes. It’s hard to believe 30 pounds will make a top 10 tomorrow, but that was kind of the thinking this morning as pros got to their starting spots. That’s part of what makes the MLF six-day tournament format unique and intriguing. Off days for half the field means potentially drastic conditions from one day to the next (and the next).
3:15 p.m. – Dobson, Nelson near cutline
Scott Dobson and Ron Nelson are two pros in Group A everyone expected to see near the top of SCORETRACKER today. Both are Northern hammers who know the Great Lakes well, and both are hanging around just south of the cutline to this point. Of course, there’s another Qualifying Round for this group on Wednesday, but Dobson and Nelson are going to have to make sure they keep themselves in position to jump above that line when the time comes.
As slow as things have seemed at times today, there have certainly been some flurries, and the cloud cover seems to have the fish on the move and ready to feed a little more. The last couple hours have been the best of the day for much of the field.
2:35 p.m. – Lucas’ record not safe yet
There’s just under an hour and a half left to fish and plenty of time to make moves. For Kurt Mitchell, that means moving on a record.
Back in July, Justin Lucas caught a record 141-9 at Sturgeon Bay in the 2020 Bass Pro Tour Covercraft Stage Five Presented by Abu Garcia in the first day of competition. Mitchell is less than 30 pounds from that mark. He’ll probably need to catch another 10 or so scorable bass to make that happen, but it’s certainly possible. He’s already landed 31 so far, though he has slowed a bit since moving to a new spot.
What we’re still waiting on (and probably won’t get) is a Josh Bertrand performance. Bertrand finished that tournament day in second with 123-3. The closest we’ve gotten to that today is Grae Buck’s 55-9 to this point.
2:22 p.m. – Crowding at the top… sort of
If you look at SCORETRACKER right now, the big thing that stands out is Kurt MItchell’s eye-popping total of 109-2. But if you look beyond that, things get a whole lot more interesting.
The next four anglers (Grae Buck, Casey Scanlon, Matt Stefan and Evan Barnes, respectively) are all up over 40 pounds and are separated by just 11 pounds or so. That’s some serious bunching for a format like this. Every one of them has caught either 13 or 14 scorable fish.
Sure, the quantity isn’t quite what we expected so far, but the quality sure is. When you have anglers ho-hum about a 3-plus-pounder, you know it’s a spectacular fishery.
Further down SCORETRACKER, there’s again a lot of bunching between 13th and 18th, with those pros separated by just under 5 pounds.
1:45 p.m. – Changes ahoy as clouds roll in?
We're starting to see the weather pick up a little here on Green Bay, with some wind and cloud cover rolling in ahead of a cel of afternoon showers. That could kick-start a change in the bite for the final period, as the pack in the middle of the standings – roughly Joshua Weaver in eighth place through Rusty Salewske in 16th – jockeys for position.
Kurt Mitchell moved off of his morning hot spot and is now working his way around some secondary spots in Sturgeon Bay. He became the first angler to hit the 100-pound mark with his 28th fish of the day (a 4-13).
1:05 p.m. – Penalties at a minimum
You know what we're not seeing much of today? Penalty minutes.
As of this writing, only eight penalties have been called (on eight different anglers), for a grand total of 16 minutes of penalty time. That's noticeably (abnormally!) low for a smallmouth fishery in this format, where landing nets and boat-flipping aren't allowed, and fish-landing violations are historically pretty prolific. For comparison, in the MLF event held on Sturgeon Bay in July, 63 percent of the field of 40 anglers took penalties on day one of competition.
It's especially astounding because only two anglers in today's field (Casey Scanlon and Scott Ashmore) have any experience in the format. These guys are handling their fish like champs.
12:27 p.m. – Stefan making moves … off the radar
We're keeping an eye on Matt Stefan. The Wisconsin pro leap-frogged up the leaderboard shortly after noon when 11-2 suddenly showed up on his SCORETRACKER, vaulting him into sixth place. That's because Stefan is fishing some "off the radar" water where his boat's connectivity is limited, so his updates are coming whenever his official's iPad finds a connection.
12:02 p.m. – View from the halfway point
As we creep past the midway point of the day, SCORETRACKER is starting to reveal a handful of small trends. If you take leader Kurt Mitchell out of the equation (with 24 fish, he skews the fish-per-angler math), you currently have 10 anglers who have weighed five scorable fish or more (2 pounds or better). Casey Scanlon is the only angler besides Mitchell who's managed to land double-digit numbers of fish (he's currently at 13), but the Missouri pro is on pace for an 88-pound day.
He's likely safe, but as Scanlon just admitted on the live stream: "You never know what's going to happen the next day," and proceded to keep firing.
11:08 a.m. – Some interesting geography at play
If you were to look at the satellite view of the 25 anglers fishing Group A today, you'd see an interesting geographic spread. For starters, there are a small handful of anglers fishing the general spot where the MLF tournament was won in July by Justin Lucas. At this point in the second period, there are also fewer anglers fishing the extreme northern end of the Door Peninsula. One angler has committed to a largemouth bite on one of the rivers in competition boundaries.
And leader Kurt Mitchell just keeps on firing away: at his current rate, Mitchell would finish the competition with over 178 pounds for the day. We'll see if/when he decides to lay up a little as the day goes on.
10:31 a.m. – It's all about quality in Period 1
Dock talk around Sturgeon Bay before the tournament started was that anglers were finding fewer fish in practice then they expected, but the quality of the fish being caught was good. Through one period, that's proving to be true: current leader Kurt Mitchell has stacked 19 fish for 70-11 on SCORETRACKER for an average of 3-12 per smallie.
The current top five of Mitchell, Casey Scanlon, Joshua Weaver, Troy Morrow and Greg Bohannon have weighed in a combined 11 fish over 4 pounds, including Mitchell's 5-10 tank.
9:31 a.m. – Mitchell crushing ‘em, Nelson still searching
Kurt Mitchell continues adding to his tournament-leading total. He’s at 37-14 and not slowing down. That’s 10 scorable bass for Mitchell, which is more than the combined total of the lowest seven anglers on the leaderboard with at least one keeper.
At the other end, Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Angler of the Year Ron Nelson is still searching for his first scorable bass. It seems crazy to think the Berrien Springs, Mich., pro is without a fish so far, but he’s fully capable of getting on a nice concentration of fish and getting right in a hurry. There’s a lot of time left to fish today.
9:06 a.m. – Mitchell on fire
After winning the Toyota Series event on Lake Erie just a few days ago, Kurt Mitchell is picking up where he left off – hammering on big Northern smallmouth and grabbing leads. Mitchell just landed his eighth scorable bass for 28-14 total so far, which puts him almost 13 pounds ahead of second-place pro Casey Scanlon. Scanlon has five scorable fish for 16-4.
Behind him, Matt Stefan has a few catches for 10-13 and Greg Bohannan has surged a bit to 9-12 and fourth place. Still no additional penalties to report. “Fishing clean” typically refers to not losing fish, but in an event like this, you have to include penalties in that as well.
8:50 a.m. – 16 on the board
Sixteen of 25 Group A pros are now on the board, and Scott Dobson has pulled into second with 8-3 total. Dobson is one of the odds-on favorites to win this TITLE event thanks to his vast experience fishing these Northern waters for smallmouth. We saw that last week on Lake Erie as Dobson clawed his way to a top-10 finish.
So far, it seems like these 25 pros are adjusting well to the new format and rules for this event. Only James Niggemeyer has taken a penalty to this point (two minutes).
8:38 a.m. – Mitchell in the lead, half the field on the board
Just about half the Group A field is on the board with one or more scorable bass. Of those 12 pros, seven have weighed multiple fish, including Kurt Mitchell, who added a few more to his 5-10 behemoth for 15-14 total and the lead at the moment. He’s a full 8 pounds ahead of Troy Morrow in second (two fish).
8:17 a.m. – Mitchell with a tank
Smallmouth nearing 6 pounds aren’t uncommon on Sturgeon Bay, but they’re not a dime a dozen, either. So when Kurt Mitchell lands a 5-10 in the championship event, you can bet he’s excited about it. He tacked on a 3-6 to bring his total to 9 pounds even. He joins Casey Scanlon, Grae Buck and Matt Stefan with a pair of catches.
8:03 a.m. – Lines in
It’s just a few minutes past lines-in and the SCORETRACKER® is already lighting up, which really comes as no surprise. Grae Buck got the TITLE started right with a 4-2, and Casey Scanlon added a 4-pounder of his own just a minute later and another 2-4 a few casts later. Kerry Milner tacked on his first (2-10) and then commented on his need for a deep-water anchoring system. They certainly come in handy out on the Great Lakes. Milner probably found that out just a couple weeks ago on Lake Erie
The day is still very young, but it’s encouraging that seven different pros have already caught fish without any penalties to speak of. Even with the nerves of the new format in the biggest event of the season, these pros are dialed in and as focused as they can be.
7:30 a.m. CT – Underway on Sturgeon Bay
We’re 30 minutes away from the start of Period 1 for the inaugural Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota. Anglers are launching from their preferred spots on Sturgeon Bay, and from the looks of things, the field of 25 pros in Group A should be fairly spread out to start the morning.
The storylines to watch today (and this week) are many, and for a good overview of all the intricacies of the TITLE, be sure to keep the tournament preview article handy. From format to coverage, Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pros and fans are in for a treat this week.
There’s really no better place in the world to host the first Tackle Warehouse TITLE. Sturgeon Bay is a legendary smallmouth fishery, and MLF’s catch, weigh, and immediate release makes for incredible minute-to-minute drama. Just ask Justin Lucas, who won the MLF Bass Pro Tour event here back in July, setting a bunch of records in the process.
Period 1 starts at 8 a.m. CT. Fortunately, our live video coverage starts even sooner. Be sure sure to head on over to MajorLeagueFishing.com for the stream at 7:45 CT, and hang out here all day for analysis, updates and a lot more.
Temperature at takeoff: 71 degrees
Forecast high: 86 degrees
Sky: Sunny with a few clouds
Precipitation: 20 percent chance of shower or stray thunderstorm
Wind: WSW 5 to 10 mph
Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
August 24-29, 2020
Hosted by Destination Sturgeon Bay